Conference considers ways to regain control of prisons, including creation of a special police force

Mar 12, 2024 | 0 comments

A conference of international prison experts concluded Saturday, offering a series of recommendations to Ecuador’s government of how to reestablish control of prisons.

International experts recommend that Ecuador establish a specially trained prison police force authorized to use force if necessary to maintain order.

Among the recommendations offered at the International Conference on Prison and Citizen Security, were to create a specialized prison police force, revise laws governing the country’s judicial system and to accelerate the seizure of assets from criminal organizations.

The conference was a joint project of the Ecuador Interior Ministry and the European Union, which sent a panel of prison experts to Quito. Discussions were led by Giovanni Tartaglia, deputy director of the Program for Assistance Against Transnational Organized Crime between Europe and Latin America.

In addition to Interior Ministry and prison management officials, the conference was attended by President Daniel Noboa and Attorney General Diana Salazar.

“Changes are required on multiple levels to correct problems that have existed for decades in Ecuador’s prison system,” Tartaglia said. “These involve much more than simply improving security arrangements, but changes to rehabilitation programs, law enforcement, public financing and in the country’s legal system.”

He added: “Changes are also required to provide more opportunity for the youth who are recruited into criminal gangs and who ultimately land in prison. Currently, there is a culture of acceptance among young people that criminal activity is a means to make a living.”

The recommendation to establish an armed prison police force is based on the Italian model in which personnel are specially trained for prison duty and protected from intimidation and extortion from inmates. The force would be authorized to use progressive force, including deadly force if necessary, to maintain order.

According to Argentinian and French experts, streamlining a new law that allows the government to seize property gained through crime is essential. “The implementation must be immediate and its measures must be toughened since criminal organizations are using their ill-gotten gains to threaten and bribe prison employees,” Tartaglia said.

In its list of recommendations, the conference also suggested a “top-to-bottom” review of Ecuador’s judicial system. “The selection process for judges must be revised to ensure that the best candidates are selected without outside interference,” a closing statement said. “There is strong evidence of political interests attempting to take control of judicial governing bodies and laws should be changed to provide independence for the system. In addition, methods to investigate cases of potentially corrupt judicial officers must be improved.”

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